MOLLE webbing debuted as part of the much-maligned US Army issued MOLLE Rucksack in 1997. Almost universally hated for its poor design, causing discomfort and even injury and being ridiculously complicated (the MOLLE II pack system came with a 136 page technical manual). The pack in particular is largely forgotten or exists as a punchline. The true legacy is the 1”x1.5” spaced webbing design that allowed the mounting of pouches in almost any configuration which has become so ubiquitous that is has even creeped outside of the boundaries of our industry.
It’s easy to see why. The webbing set up is ingenious and simple, once you understand the principle of how it works when it’s set up properly. It is secure, modular and can be built to suit a wide number of applications.
But as the industry starts to focus on reducing weight, where does this take us?
Today and tomorrow.
Negative space: It’s not where Spock is evil and has a goatee, but it’s the space left when you cut material away. By removing material in a MOLLE compatible pattern, rather than adding webbing to a surface, you can mount pouches while decreasing weight.
Examples of this include Blue Force Gear and Maxpedition’s use of laser cut Hypalon-like composite fabric, Eberlestock’s laser-cut MOLLE and in 5.11 Tactical’s announced Hex Grid system.
Behind the webbing: Circa the turn of the century, it seemed that everything was overbuilt from 1000D nylon, sewn to more 1000D nylon, and then some more added just to be safe. Stuff can never be too durable, right? Extra material is great until you have to carry it or wear it all day, every day.
Many manufacturers over the past few years have started building equipment from lighter weights of nylon, going all the way down to 500D with patterns similar to ripstop without adding weight while still maintaining battlefield-level durability. Examples of this can be seen in the Grey Ghost Gear’s use of LiteLok fabric, and Velocity System’s use of 500D denier nylon and stretch Tweave across their entire product line. Even Maxpedition, once the kings of thick, crunchy, heavily-laminated 1000D nylon has stated incorporating lighter 500D nylon into their newer designs in conjunction with 1000D where it makes sense.
Sometimes the best MOLLE is no MOLLE: MOLLE solves every problem, right? Well, just when you think you have it all figured out… When a certain special operations unit was consulted by Arc’teryx on features wanted in a backpack, the answer they got was not what they expected: No MOLLE. Their rationale? ‘If we’re carrying something it’s in the pack, not on the pack’, flying in the face of the conventional wisdom.
Wabi sabi is the Japanese concept of beauty in older, sometimes even damaged, objects. I asked friends from all walks of emergency services to send or let me take photos of pieces of kit from their bags, their belts or their pockets.
Mechanix Original Gloves, Constable MW
When MW was in the store and he pulled out his gloves, I had to take a picture, because the amount of abuse a tactical law enforcement officer dishes out on gloves, especially when working in rural settings. This has been MW’s only pair of working gloves for the past year and a half, and they’ve taken everything he’s dished out.
Danner Acadia, Paramedic SC
Three years of use with a provincial ambulance service. Danner built their boots initially for loggers in the Pacific Northwest but they take the punishment of urban settings too. Maybe a little polish wouldn’t hurt?
Fisher Bullet Pen, Constable GN
GN bought this on his first week on the job with a major municipal police service, and has ridden in his pocket every day since. The Fisher Space Pens have a thick matte black coating that takes a decent amount of punishment to wear off. The patina on the exposed brass is beautiful in person.
Surefire 6P LED, Constable KK
This 6P LED (now discontinued and replaced by its newer iteration, the Fury series of lights) has had the finish scorched, oxidized and annealed by being mounted next to the hot barrel of a working carbine, as the carbon built up just behind the bezel shows. The purple and grey colouring is not a trick of the light, but the effect of the repeatedly heating and cooling the aluminium and anodized finish.
Streamlight Rubber Helmet Band and Surefire G2L Fire Rescue, Firefighter BP
Simple kit often works the best, and it doesn’t get much simpler than the Streamlight Helmet Band. Having been through vehicle extrication, structural fires, medical calls and repetitions through the flashover simulator, this one has been around the block once or twice, but does exactly what it’s supposed to: Keep your light tight to your helmet and out of the way.
Benchmade Griptilian, Corporal now Constable JN
This knife travelled with my friend through an 8-month Roto in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces, where it was an everyday carry tool for him. While now it’s part of his larger overall collection, it has a special place in having served him so well while he was serving overseas.
We at 911 Supply pride ourselves on selling clothing and equipment that stands the wear and rigors of day-to-day professional use. I offer my thanks to everyone who took the time to show me some of their great kit and sharing some of the stories behind them.
Whether we are referring to a jacket, holster or a pouch for a load-bearing vest, equipment is fundamentally synced to what we do and how well we do it. Are you buying a piece of kit because you like it, or because you need it? Will it meet your needs and perform adequately, or will it fall apart or malfunction when on a call or in a harsh environment, when failure is less desirable or possibly catastrophic?
When we buy equipment, there is always uncertainty, a concern for compatibility, quality, and effective results. Twenty years of Law Enforcement experience, with the most recent six years working as part of a large municipal full-time Tactical Unit, allows me to give you solid, experienced based advice. Let me tell you what has worked and what hasn’t, and more importantly why. Allow me to assist you in spending your money wisely so you choose the right item for the appropriate mission.
I have been given an opportunity by 911 Supply and Adventure Gear to regularly write a short Blog on kit and equipment which gives me a forum to tell you what works for me, and other members of my team. My blog is not intended and will not bash manufacturers, their hard work, and desire to produce something that you may need. I will, however, be honest in my opinion about whether a product is worth spending your hard earned money on, or what may be a waste of time and valuable resources. Join me in helping you pick the right gear.